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Energy Realism Amid Climate Alarmism: James Hansen Rides Again

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 25, 2014

“Indeed, a case could be made that politicians have been pushed into a situation such that they have no choice but to approve continued coal-burning, hydro-fracking for increased gas and oil production, and pursuit of oil and gas in extreme and pristine environments.” (James Hansen)

“I am saying that the global energy discussion should be based on facts, not on myths.” (James Hansen)

Yesterday’s post on James Hansen’s new analysis, “Renewable Energy, Nuclear Power and Galileo: Do Scientists Have a Duty to Expose Popular Misconceptions?, discussed how the anti-nuclear, pro-wind strategy of mainstream environmentalism works to increase, not decrease, greenhouse-gas emissions. Such an incredible irony can only be blamed on philosophical fraud, of believing in imaging and emotions rather than reality. [1]

Hansen’s article also speaks energy/political truth to Big Environmentalism in other ways that help steer the energy debate towards realism and away from postmodernism. Now, if we can only get the author to open the door to climate realism (global lukewarming) to join his energy realism!

Here are a series of Hansen quotations that can only add to the civil war within a movement that can only be described, in its present form, as not pro-renewables as much as anti-energy.

More Energy, Affordable Energy

“Abundant affordable energy is essential to address the world’s economic and environmental problems. Energy is needed to achieve adequate living standards and a stable human population. Economic progress makes it possible to pay attention to the environment, as required if we are to share the planet with the other species, which are needed for our own well-being.” (p. 3)

“Global energy consumption will continue to rise for decades. Why? First, population is likely to reach about nine billion before it begins to decline, even in the best case. Second, developing world energy use is still rising, as it must to achieve living standards that allow their emphasis to be on more than survival.” (p. 3)

“China, though most of its population is now above the poverty line, will use more energy, because its economic development and the well-being of its citizens are not yet at the point where energy needs level out.” (p. 3)

“[I]n the developed world, despite improving energy efficiency and assertions by some people that they will live low energy life styles, there is no indication of a dramatic decline in overall energy use. People travel and plan to continue to travel. Small declines in energy use in the developed world so far are a consequence mainly of outsourcing of manufacturing, not low-energy life styles.” (p. 3)

“With economic progress fertility rates in most developed nations have fallen close to or below the level required for population stability or decline. I believe that the best hope for preserving Earth’s environment and its invaluable abundance of life is through intelligent economic development, and economic development requires a substantial level of affordable energy.” (p. 3)

“Fossil fuels provided the energy that today’s developed world employed to reach its current standard of living…. [I]f fossil fuels provide the only realistic available path to development and improved living standards, that path surely will be taken.” (p. 3)

Renewables’ Pittance

“Fossil fuels provide more than 85% of the world’s energy. One misconception discussed below concerns the fallacy that renewable energy is rapidly supplanting conventional energy. Total non-hydro renewables today offset only about one year’s growth of energy use.” (p. 2)

“In the United States bringing sun and wind to large scale requires time to get public approval (around the entire nation) and time to build new electric grids to take the power from its hotspots to where it is needed. It also requires development of energy storage technologies to deal with intermittent energy sources. Without energy storage, it is likely that renewables will be combined with gas burning….” (p. 13)

“Yes, a few scientists assert that renewables alone are sufficient, a position that gets applause. As for me, I would prefer to stick to science and tend my orchard.” (p. 15)

China Realism

“The increase of China’s carbon emissions in the period 2000-2012 constitutes almost 60% of the global increase.” (p. 7)

“Carbon (CO2) emissions did not decline following the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Indeed, emissions and even the growth rate of emissions accelerated. The largest growth of CO2 emissions and energy use was in China, where provision of electricity expanded to more than 90% of the population, lifting several hundred million people out of poverty. Coal use caused most of the emissions growth and coal is now the source of nearly half of global fossil fuel carbon emissions” (p. 2)

“The United States and China also are responsible for much of the excess CO2 in the air today, the U.S. portion more than 25% and China’s more than 10%. Within a few decades China’s contribution is likely to be comparable to that of the U.S. if recent trends continue.” (p. 8)

“It is true that China is leading the world in installation of renewable energies. However, a meaningful data presentation for the new energy sources shows a rather different picture than that presented in environmentalist literature.… The new fossil fuel energy output in China, mostly coal, exceeded new wind energy by a factor of six and new solar output by a factor of 27.” (p. 8)

“Even China, though most of its population is now above the poverty line, will use more energy, because its economic development and the well-being of its citizens are not yet at the point where energy needs level out.”. (p. 3)

Renewable Subsidies: ‘A Ponzi Scheme’

“The largest portion of renewable energy cost is often hidden, e.g. by RPS and feed-in tariffs, in which the costs are passed on to all utility customers. Such added costs are bearable if the renewable portion of electricity is small, but, as in a Ponzi scheme, there is danger that the system won’t work as the subsidized portion of the scheme grows larger.” (p. 13)

Indoor Air Pollution (Biomass Burning)

“Indoor wood, coal and biofuel fires kill more than 1,000,000 people per year. The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident, which exposed nearby Pennsylvania residents to a level of radiation less than the natural annual background level, will cause few if any deaths.” (p. 10)

“It is worth watching a 3-minute clip of an “anti-nuke” concert held in New York City in 1979 after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania. Participants yearn for the warm glow of a wood fire, even coal, but insist that nuclear power be terminated” (p. 10).

Political Reality

“People who entreat the government to solve global warming but offer support only for renewable energies will be rewarded with [a fossil-fuel world]. Politicians are not going to let the lights go out or stop economic growth. Don’t blame Obama or other politicians. If we give them no viable option, we will be fracked and mined to death, and have no one to blame but ourselves.” (p. 11)


[1] Philosopher Ayn Rand defined what may be called philosophic fraud in this way (quoted in Bradley, Capitalism at Work, p. 66):

The law of identity does not permit you to have your cake and eat it, too. The law of causality does not permit you to eat your cake before you have it…. Whenever you rebel against causality, your motive is the fraudulent desire, not to escape it, but worse: to reverse it.

I applied philosophical fraud to Enron as follows (Bradley, Capitalism at Work, pp. 64–65):

Enron’s ill-fated leaders were not guided by Kantianism, Romanticism, or other subjectivist/postmodernist schools of thought. Still, they became artisans of their own home-made variant of these schools. Appearances went from packaging the business message to being the message in the company’s last years. The scale and scope of Enron imaging can be best described by a new “ism,” perceptionism.

Appearance as corporate strategy started small and snowballed at Enron. Executives and lieutenants were encouraged by past success and intoxicated by big plans. They were “smoking their own dope” and “drinking their own whisky,” as a top Enron executive warned his colleagues prior to the ruinous Skilling era. Enron founder and head Ken Lay became “doped by his own publicity,” to use a phrase Rand penned for Atlas Shrugged.


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